The first Easter began in fear.
Imagine the women leaving home before dawn, fearful of who might see them and that they too would be apprehended by the authorities since they were associated with Jesus. In addition they worried about how they would gain entrance to the tomb. Who would roll the stone away? Fear hung heavy upon them. Yet they went to the tomb to perform a service of devotion to their friend whom they reasonably expected to be dead.
Matthew’s account of Easter morning seems more frightening than the other Gospels due to an earthquake – as the very earth shook the morning that Jesus arose from the dead.
Jesus appeared like lightning – reminiscent of the transfiguration – generating fear in the guards. The guards were supposed to be watching over his body, not watching it walk away from them! They were terrified, scared into paralysis. They would have undoubtedly been afraid of what would happen to them once it was discovered Jesus was gone. Who would believe them when they said that he got up and walked out and there was nothing they could do about it? The story of Easter begins with fear.
“Fear masters everything,” someone once said. Fear, then, is the “original” sin because out of it we live in less than our best selves, often destroying what is around us.
When we’re afraid to talk to strangers, our fear masters everything and breaks down community.
When our fear has broken down our community, crime goes up. Our fear of crime then limits where we go and what we do. Fear masters everything, including our own mobility.
As a nation and people, we long for change that will address the problems we face, but we are afraid of the changes that are necessary. Our fear paralyzes us just like the guards.
In the church, we know that we can’t continue to do things as we always have, but we’re afraid of making change. Fear keeps us doing the same things with the same results…insanity.
In our personal lives, we may be miserable, but we’re afraid to risk changing. We would rather live in numbness and despair than face the fear we have to change! Fear masters everything.
What is the root of racism? Fear of the other; fear masters everything and makes people do hurtful, harmful things.
While it’s been said that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, the four-letter word that corrupts more than power is FEAR. In Native American wisdom, the only way that evil can penetrate the human heart is through the door of fear. Fear masters everything!
Fear keeps us from forgiving, being kind, successfully accomplishing our goals, being honest and frank, building our dreams, finding serenity and happiness, and doing good. Fear: it’s the greatest weapon we use against ourselves or others to keep us from doing and being whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing to God, commendable (Phil. 4:8); what God calls us to be and do.
NO FEAR is the rallying cry of us all who claim the message of Easter because it was the first words out of the angel’s mouth: “Fear not!” The most common command given by God through angels, messengers and Jesus himself on Easter morning was “fear not!” It’s a command, an encouragement, a way of life that we all need to hear and trust on Easter morning. We don’t have to live like the paralyzed guards. We can live like the women and disciples who faced their fears in Christ Jesus.
Easter masters all our fears. At the angel’s command, the women and disciples turned and followed Jesus down the path into the world where they would love and serve him forever in a life of NO FEAR.
What is the master of your life? Will fear master everything? Or will Easter be your master today? Choose this day: NO FEAR!
~Bishop Sally Dyck